My favorite place to study is a cozy nook on the fourth floor of Uris’s library. It offers a fantastic view of Ho Plaza, the slope and Cayuga Lake. It’s a good place to study. But despite my best efforts to work efficiently and without distraction, my eyes drift to the left of the desk, drawn to the writing on the wall. The white brick wall is scalloped with chicken stripes, symbols and all the other ways of writing, utensils of all kinds. There are obscene jokes and gibberish, inspirational messages and echoes of crushed dreams. The blank wall is the hidden page in every Cornell yearbook – it’s been there since the last time the wall was repainted and it will remain until it’s repainted.
This article is the first in a series of letters I intend to write to those anonymous Cornellians. They probably didn’t intend for their messages to appear in a newspaper. They also probably didn’t know their messages would matter to a guy sitting in the same place as before. But here we are.
“It’s my legacy, and now you’re part of it, and I’m part of yours.”
To the author of the Writing on the Wall:
When I try to picture you as you were when you scribbled that message on the wall, among the farewell notes, love letters, and expressions of regret, I imagine a senior in his final days here. You may have been studying for your final exams, gazing longingly at the sunny slope, admiring the perpetual motion of Ho Plaza and the slow rolling hills of Ithaca. You may have struggled with a difficult math problem, knowing that your success didn’t depend on your ability to solve it, and smiling at a time when you thought it did. Maybe you were just sitting in your favorite corner, watching Ho Plaza before packing your bags for the last time, remembering the countless nights spent here hunched over your computer in misery.
I like to think of you strolling around campus the day before graduation, soaking up the spring at Cornell one last time, and returning to the cozy office you visited once in sophomore year for exams. I like to think you’ve read the writing on the wall, pulled out a pencil, and slowly engraved, “This is my legacy, and now you’re part of it, and I’m part of yours.”
Whatever its source, your message expresses a beautiful feeling. And that’s true. By writing a simple message on a wall in Uris, you have entered the lives of everyone who reads it. The reader can skim the words quickly or use your post as the basis for an article in The Cornell Daily Sun. Regardless of how long the reader spends thinking about it, the short message touched them, even slightly.
Memories make us who we are. Our sense of being is defined by our past experiences, the values that guide our actions, and even moments we don’t remember. Our capacities for empathy, violence and kindness are all defined by the cumulative effect of our lived experiences. Therefore, I believe that each of our experiences, including reading a note written on a wall, plays a role in guiding our future actions.
In this logic, your message reveals its truth. I join your legacy by meditating on your words, and you join mine by influencing my future actions. The idea that a legacy is something as simple as a message on a wall is heartwarming. It breaks the idea that only big concrete actions are real legacies.
I have recently been confronted with the death of peers, which has prompted many thoughts about legacies. I concluded that they were confusing. The only logical reason to leave a legacy is to help the people and things you care about after you’re gone. You don’t even know my name, but you invited me into yours. It makes me happy to be included in your legacy and that you have joined mine. Thanks for that.
A reader writing on the wall
Christian Baran is a senior at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected] Honestly takes place every other Friday this semester.